[E. V. Knox [Edmund George Valpy Knox] (1881-1971, ‘Evoe’), editor of ‘Punch’.] Two Typed unpublished Talks on Punch, one dealing with the magazine’s place in social history, the other with its politics. With two drafts of the first, one in autograph

E. V. Knox [Edmund George Valpy Knox] (1881-1971, ‘Evoe’), editor of ‘Punch’ 1932-1948, humorist, essayist and poet [son of Edmund Abruthnott Knox, brother of Ronald, Dillwyn and Wilfred Knox]
Publication details: 
[Hampstead, London.] 1948 and 1949.
SKU: 23589

See Knox’s entry in the Oxford DNB, along with those of his father Edmund Arbuthnott Knox, his brothers Ronald, Dillwyn and Wilfred, his wife the ‘Mary Poppins’ illustrator Mary Shepard (daughter of Ernest Shepard) and his daughter the novelist Penelope Fitzgerald. At the time the present material was composed Knox had been involved with Punch for more than four decades (1904-1948), holding the editorship for the last sixteen, with the magazines circulation rising to a peak of almost 200,000 as he approached his retirement. He was well aware of Punch’s place as a national institution - according to the Punch historian R. G. G. Price, colleagues remarked that ‘working with him was a little like helping to edit the Journal of Hellenic Studies’ - and the respect he felt for the magazine is apparent in the present material, which comprises two talks, both given immediately after Knox’s retirement. Apparently unpublished, the material provides an astute and entertaining overview of the magazine, its achievements (including, Knox claims, the invention of the modern cartoon, of the name Crystal Palace, and of the institution of Poppy Day) and its place in British social history; and are well-written with wit and evident pride and including some personal observations. Of the four items, one (Item Three) is in autograph, the others typed; with each page in all four on a separate leaf. The first talk is complete, the second lacks three pages of twenty-two; of the two drafts the typescript (Item Four) lacks two pages, while around half of the autograph (Item Three) is present. The material is in good overall condition. While there is a degree of overlap, the first talk (Item One, 1948) deals with Punch’s place in the British social history, and the second (Item Two, c.1949) with the politics of the magazine, with Knox addressing its Radical origins from a firmly Conservative standpoint. Items Three and Four are drafts of Item One. ONE. Complete carbon typescript of talk entitled ‘100 Years of Punch’, headed ‘Hampstead Subscription Library. November, 1948’. 18pp, foolscap 8vo. Single-spaced on eighteen leaves (the first two larger than the others). Slight creasing to first few leaves, but in good overall condition. Complete; with a duplicate copy that lacks the last page. Knox begins with a lighthearted explanation of his intentions in giving the talk: ‘what I am going to say is really no more than a personal impression of Punch. Let me at once, and at the outset correct a possible misapprehension. I have not myself been connected with Punch for a hundred years. The first printed contribution I made to it was in 1905, so that for a good deal of the history of the paper, which was started in 1841, I have to trust to the records and the memories of others, and to the bound volumes of the past.’ While it is, as he explains, ‘that earlier part with which I have nothing to do that I should like to speak chiefly tonight - a Victorian period of Punch about as distant from the age we now live in as ancient Greece or Rome’, but first of all he would like to say ‘a word or two about recent Editors’. He describes how, ‘despite the lapse of time and the stupendous changes in our national life the publication of Punch has been continued unbroken week after week’, apart from in 1946, when ‘two consecutive numbers failed to appear, and under my Editorship. This was due not to my own shortcomings but the shortcomings of coal. But it broke the continuity and we had to be content with two cartoons published by courtesy of The Times. Doubtless all the former editors turned in their graves to reproach me.’ He gives an account of the removal of the celebrated Punch table (carved with initials of contributors, and now in the British Library) from Bouverie Street during the Second World War, and describes the portraits of contributors which hang on the walls of the dining room, in a line which ‘runs round three walls and a half, and nobody knows what will happen when the photograph of the latest member of the staff eventually meets the photograph of Mark Lemon. | They are very impressive those old photographs, for almost everyone is stout, everyone has whiskers, nearly everyone has a beard. It is only in the later and leaner years of this century that they become haggard and shaven and slim.’ There follows a spirited passage (covering almost a whole page) lamenting the passing of the Victorian heyday of Punch. It begins: ‘What a world! What a life! No films! no radio! no motor cars! No queues, no coupons, no passports, no telephones, electric light only struggling to be born. Who would not be back in those days of antimacassars, of plenty, prosperity - at any rate for the well-to-do, when you were never interrupted in the middle of a meal by the tiresome buzzing of a bell, and when meals were well worthy of not being interrupted. | When you did not have to so apportion your week, as not to miss some tedious lecture on the air, which might clash with a murder story from Hollywood on the screen. | Days of crinolines, days of chignons, days of bustles, days of bathing machines and bathing dresses like bell tents.’ He points to some of the magazine’s Victorian high spots: ‘Days, or rather nights, of Mr and Mrs Caudle, days of Tom Noddy and Mr Briggs, days of the Ponsonby de Tomkyns, of little Grigsby and Sir Gorgius Midas, of Edwin and Angelina, of the ducal sitting room, the impertinent flunkey, and the obsequious tradesman. Days when curates had eggs. Days when it was beginning to dawn on the consciousness of the astounded reader that the domestics hidden away in the basement might rebel against carrying coals to the fourth floor’. Noting ‘how vast the proportion of the time of our subscribers appears to have been spent in the hunting field’, he discusses the magazine’s treatment of hunting, with reference to the ‘amazingly talented’ John Leech, and a bon mot of his at a staff dinner in 1859. Next Knox turns to ‘the greatest artist that Punch has had the good fortune to employ’, Charles Keene, and then to George Du Maurier, of whose work Knox places ‘in terms of the drawing room, the reception, the fashionable studio, the ultra-snobbish satire of the aesthetic movement and of the vulgar rich’. Du Maurier’s style is ‘very much the reverse of the modern idea in comic drawing, this idea of representing in a slightly facetious way the social comedy’ Knox now switches to the origins of the magazine, begun ‘with three editors, a bad plan in my opinion’, and ‘a capital of £25. I suppose you would want between £500,000 and a million if you wanted to start anything of the sort now, that is to say if you were allowed to start a newspaper at all, as you are not’. After describing the sensational effect of the publication of Thomas Hood’s ‘Song of the Shirt’, he turns to cartooning in general, with the claim: ‘So far as the word is applied to a satirical drawing on a social or political theme, Punch invented the word cartoon, just as it invented the phrase “iron horse” for a bicycle, and the phrase “Crystal Palace” for the glass covering of the Great Exhibition.’ He turns to John Tenniel and then Bernard Partridge, about whom he has an amusing personal anecdote: ‘He had acted with Sir Henry Irving. He told me once when he was playing Macduff, the messenger who had to bring the news about Dunsinane fell ill, and a stage hand had to be coached suddenly to play the part. This man delivered his lines about Burnham Wood coming to Dunsinane all right, ending “I look’d towards Birnham and anon, methought, the wood began to move”, but when Irving said “Liar and Slave”, and struck him, the stage hand said crossly, “Well, that’s what they told me to say, anyhow.”’ He also states that Partridge ‘had the curious distinction of having introduced Bernard Shaw to Oscar Wilde’. Knox also recalls that when he ‘first came on to the Table with him, we still used to smoke Churchwarden pipes after dinner. He did not mind in the least what sort of cartoons he was asked to draw nor with what implication, but if he didn’t like the subject much he only signed his initials, and if he really disliked it he used no signature at all.’ The last of the Victorian illustrators Knox deals with is Phil May, before turning to ‘the tremendous change that came about at the end of the last century, and the beginning of this’, with ‘the triumph of photography, followed by the triumph of the cinema’. He points out that during the ‘period of wood blocks’ ending with May and Keene, ‘every drawing had to be cut on wood and drawn the wrong way round [...] and in the case of some of the reproductions of Keene, [...] one sometimes feels tempted to admire Swain who cut them almost as much as Keene who drew them’. He boasts that, while film footage will assist historians of later periods in London, ‘If you want to know exactly what it was like in 1880 you have to look at Punch or The Illustrated London News’. On the subject of readers yearning for past styles he jokes: ‘We still get letters from people who say, “I am now 96 years old and I have been reading Punch since I was seven, what has happened to Leech? Can we not have some more of his fine old drawings of Mr Briggs in the Highlands?” [...] Some of them again ask why there are not any longer drawings of noble and aristocratic-looking men and of lovely and elegant women. The answer is, of course, that there are, lots of them. You find them in the advertisement pages. They are not always fully clothed, sometimes they have hardly any clothes on at all, it depends what they’re advertising. Even if they were not in our pages you would find their photographs all over the daily press and you would find them on the cinema screen.’ He discusses the rise of photography and the cinema, ‘Changes in family life’, and science, which has ‘done everything that Mr Punch prophesied it would do. Mr Punch foretold the telephone, the submarine, the radio, the gramophone, the aeroplane and the television. I can’t say he invented them, but he made comic pictures showing what would happen when they arrived. They arrived. They were not all so comic as he supposed. I am rather glad to say that he did not prophesy the Atom Bomb.’ He notes that Punch has changed ‘from a violent Radical reformer (with some reservations I must admit) to the rather cynical observer of a vastly different world’. He concludes with a discussion of ‘the letter press’, with reference to writers including Sir Owen Seaman, Sir Thomas Lipton, E. V. Lucas and Sir Alan Herbert. With regard to the poem ‘Flanders Fields’ he claims that ‘Poppy Day was invented by Punch.’ Of the ‘present Editor, my friend Kenneth Bird’, he writes that he ‘seems to contradict the idea, about Scotsmen not seeing jokes. He is responsible for the introduction of a number of new comic artists, and made a “Toby” Club meeting every fortnight’. He notes that ‘the whole point of the cartoon’ may have been destroyed in the time from ‘the Wednesday, or the earlier date before Punch appears [...] This of course makes the editor of Punch the most unhappy man in the world.’ He notes how ‘General Gordon [...] was rescued by Punch in a cartoon when he had really been killed’, and that another cartoon showed ‘John Bull brushing away the Vampire Bat of war on the day that Hitler entered Prague. The fact that the Foreign Office had told us that there was no danger the week before did not of course prevent our readers from heaping us with abuse and contempt. Those who had read Punch for ninety years and had never even found a misprint in it (a very numerous class) were, of course, the most violent.’ He notes that ‘the method of settling the cartoons is supposed to be settled [sic] in the manner of a committee meeting, and as the members of the staff have not been chosen for their political views, but for their supposed skill in writing or drawing, discussions are liable to proceed for a very long time indeed. it is no wonder that Du Maurier went to sleep. So it was in 1841, and so it is in 1949. They’ve dropped one cartoon. I don’t wonder.’ He notes two ‘particularly famous’ Punch cartoons: Tenniel’s ‘Dropping the Pilot’ (‘supposed to have been our best, though Sir Owen Seaman always said it was the worst, because to drop the pilot is not a startling or sensational thing to do, but the routine of every voyage and nothing could annoy the pilot more than not to be dropped when the ship has got into the open sea’) and the Crimean War cartoon ‘General February Turns Traitor’. The piece ends abruptly: ‘I shall conclude by pointing out that in cutting out conversation pieces, we make Punch far less [‘(quotable?)’ added here in pencil] than before.’ TWO: Typescript of talk given, from internal evidence, in 1949 (the year is given) to a Conservative Party association (there is a reference to ‘the party whom you represent’), discussing Punch’s politics and Knox’s own (‘When I joined the Tories, the first World War was only just over’), and including an explanation of his editorial position.19pp, 4to. Lacking the first page and two other pages. Paginated 3, 5-22 (i.e. lacking pp.1, 2, 4). With duplicates of eight of the pages, on eight leaves. Each leaf but one with a punch hole. With a few minor autograph emendations (including the deletion of a sentence praising ‘Conservative’, see below) and additions (including ‘Paxton of Crystal Palace also great friend: of of few at table’ and ‘They had very convivial dinners’). The subject is ‘the history of the paper which may have been said to have passed from an attitude of extreme Radicalism to one of mild Conservatism’, with references to ‘Leading spirits at the beginning’ who were Radicals - Henry Mayhew, Douglas Jerrold, and the first editor Mark Lemon, the latter ‘a great friend of Charles Dickens, good humoured, benevolent and very fat. He used to play Falstaff in amateur theatricals without any padding. You can see how different things are today.’ He discusses the impact of Hood’s ‘Song of the Shirt’, which trebled the magazine’s circulation. He explains how Tenniel ‘established the reputation of Punch in the political world’, shifting it from Radical to Whig. The early days of the celebrated Round Table are described, including the fact that Punch was nearly called ‘The Funny Dog with the Comic Tale’ (‘This would have been no use for any paper which had immortal longings in it, [...] and it would I think have died very soon.’) As examples of the ‘plenty of quarrels’ he gives Richard Doyle leaving because ‘it was attacking the Catholics’, and Thackeray ‘because it was attacking Napoleon III’. Charles Keene is described as ‘the greatest artist Punch ever had’. Regarding the status of the Conservative Party after the Boer War he observes: ‘may I remark here and now that when I was younger I most commonly heard the party whom [sic] you represent here called neither Conservative or Tory. Unionist was the name nearly always adopted, and “U” would be written in brackets after a Candidate’s name at election time.’ He explains that the after the Great War, Punch ‘remained consistently Baldwinite for a a good many years with strong disapproval of everybody whom Mr. Baldwin disapproved, though not perhaps with as much toleration as he showed for Mr. Ramsay Macdonald’. He continues: ‘One of the hottest discussions I can remember raged round Free Trade and many old subscribers to the paper ceased to take it when we became Protectionist.’ He gives his position as editor: ‘It has always been supposed that during the years which I have been on the Table that every new government ought to have a fair deal, whatever its complexion, and not be attacked until some particular point of quality had arisen. The present government has I think rather strained this theory to the breaking point, [last four words deleted] especially perhaps at the moment of the Fuel Crisis, when it caused the paper for the first time in its life to disappear for two weeks from circulation.’ With regard to this ‘terrible blow’ to the magazine, he explains how he managed to insert the two cartoons also mentioned in Item One in The Times, ‘one of which represented Mr. Shinwell as a coal man delivering blocks of ice to the coal holes of shivering householders’. The magazine’s activities during the Second World War, including its relocation ‘in a barn in Hertfordshire’, are described. ‘But the notion of taking the old table away and hiding it from the enemy did not occur to us immediately the bombing began’, even though ‘a great part of Bouverie Street had been destroyed or gutted by fire. We met in the normal way and were proceeding to discuss a new method of drawing Adolf Hitler I suppose, when one of us said, “supposing a bomb were to fall into this room to-day do you realise what would happen?” “Well, what exactly?” said somebody else. “Why the old table would be destroyed.” We all turned pale with terror, so the table was taken away. If that isn’t Conservatism, I don’t know what is. [last sentence deleted]’ He makes similar claims to innovation as in Item One, including that ‘Punch invented this word cartoon’, and joking that Mr Punch ‘certainly did not prophesy [...] Mr. Aneurin Bevan’. He discusses Douglas Jerrold’s ‘Caudle Lectures’, noting that while Jerrold was ‘the hottest of the Radical reformers who started the paper, [...] his great grandson who bears his name is one of the most determined Conservatives whom I know’. After describing Thackeray’s involvement he observes that Dickens sent Lemon ‘one contribution but I think Lemon must have lost it; anyhow it never appeared’. The achievements during the editorship of Shirley Brooks are mentioned. The fourth editor Burnand is described as ‘a Catholic and a Liberal’, and the fifth Sir Owen Seaman, as ‘a devoted adherent of Joseph Chamberlain, and later of Stanley Baldwin, as he was then’. Quoting some of Seaman’s verses, he claims that ‘A price was set on his head by the Kaiser’, adding ‘Whether that was ever done to the Editor of Punch during the second World War, I don’t know, but we did our best. I don’t think Stalin reads Punch.’ He elaborates on the anecdote about Partridge in Item One: ‘If the cartoon was Conservative enough, he signed his full name, if it wasn’t quite Conservative enough, he simply used his initials. If he didn’t really think it was Conservative at all he left it unsigned.’ Raven Hill, ‘who did the other cartoons during a great part of my connection with the paper, was the hottest Conservative I have ever known.’ He recalls Hill’s attempt to become a special correspondent (‘he had been a very good rifle shot when he was young’). After a brief mention of the ‘social pictures’ he discusses how the paper has ‘changed a lot’: ‘Fun has had to become quicker and sharper. Cinemas, motor cars, aeroplanes, radio, American authors have seen to that.’ Recent developments are covered, including the fact that photography has put paid to ‘plain straightforward drawing’. He concludes with his opinion that ‘burlesque, caricature and satire [...] seem to me just what a comic paper is for, and exactly what Punch was intended for at the start, except that the subjects of satire or caricature have entirely changed. We don’t attack the rich, the prosperous, the tyrannical manufacturers who oppress the poor, because they don’t exist, but aren’t there enough subjects for burlesque and satire in controls and regulations, and the perpetual absurdities of an ever increasing bureaucracy, becoming so expensive that goodness knows how we can possibly pay for it. I said “goodness knows”. I suppose I ought to have said “America knows!” We get the money from them.’ THREE. Part of autograph final draft from which Item One was typed. 27pp, 8vo. Paginated 17-30, 32-42, 44, 45 (i.e. lacking pp.1-16, 31, 43, and 46 onwards). Comprising a little over half of the text as printed. With a few minor emendations. The only deletion of note is the following passage: ‘Just think of a few of these changes as they affect a Pictorial paper. Motor cars! How ugly from an artist’s point of view but we cannot pretend that the Streets are full of hansoms now’. The sentence ‘Nothing is so conducive to longevity as being principal cartoonists of Punch’ is toned down to ‘Longevity seems to have been a hobby of the principal Cartoonists of Punch’. FOUR: Earlier double-spaced typed draft of Item One, dated in text to 1948. 39pp, 4to, paginated 3-41 (i.e. incomplete, lacking first two pages). Each page on a separate leaf. A couple of minor autograph emendations on p.28; with minor notes (one dated to 1971) in the hand of Knox’s widow Mary on p.36 and the reverse of p.16. The beginning of Item One was expanded from this version; otherwise the differences between that version and this one do not appear to be substantive, consisting of stylistic revision, recasting and rearrangement, although unlike Item One this version ends with the ironic statement: ‘Russia for some reason or other seems to be always coming into our cartoons.”